John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies

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Uses of Literature in the Age of Academic Literary Studies

Günter Leypold, Heidelberg University

This project looks at the shifting of authority in the transatlantic literary field since the second half of the twentieth century. More specifically I wish to examine how the “humanities revolution” of the postwar period (the massive expansion of higher education between 1950 and 1975) and the rise of the American university to a center of a world system of academic production have affected the perception of literary value around the world. One of the larger questions is this: What does it mean for the cultural relevance of literature that aesthetic value seems increasingly defined by the sensibilities of an international “artworld,” the socio-professional networks of credentialed authors, cultural theorists, and literary critics whose prestige economies (literary prizes, canons, museums and sites of cultural memory) are largely defined within academic institutions?